The market size of Asia Pacific Digital Health was valued over USD 14.1 billion in 2019 and is growing rapidly, so much so that it is projected to increase by over one third in the next 5 years.
The fuel for this growth has definitely been COVID19, difficulties in accessing in-person care, fragmented patient data and the high incidence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

We contacted and interviewed Roberta Sarno, Head of Digital Health at APACMed, to discuss the opportunities and challenges for the Digital Health in the APAC region.

Roberta Sarno

Roberta Sarno Digital Health Manager, APACMed

Roberta joined APACMed in December 2019 to lead the new Digital Health Committee. She supports the association’s members to establish a digital health ecosystem, build knowledge and advocate for optimal policies that help digital health innovation in APAC.
Prior to joining APACMed, Roberta worked as senior consultant and business development manager at Alcimed in Paris and Marseille, France, where she supported clients in the healthcare sector on innovation and strategy projects. Before that, she worked as genetic engineering researcher at Curie Institute, in collaboration with the French startup Meiogenix.
She holds a PhD in genetics (Curie Institute, Paris), a master of business foundations (INSEAD) and lives in Singapore.

Asia Pacific: opportunities and challenges in healthcare

The demand for healthcare across APAC is growing rapidly, in both developed and emerging markets. This trend is mainly driven by population growth – with many emerging markets about to reach their “peak” population – and an ageing population. In addition to this, the lifestyle of a rising middle class has led to a surge in chronic diseases.
Healthcare solutions that are data driven, innovative and affordable, ones that re-imagine care and cost and focus on the patient are needed now more than ever before. While the technology has made great progress, providers, payers, and consumers have been slower to adopt than was anticipated, in part due to slow regulatory approvals and the lack of an adequate reimbursement model.
Having said that, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst in advancing some digital health solutions, specifically in remote patient care. However, challenges still remain: how remote care programs integrate along the continuum of care, how they qualify and quantify the value created to the total healthcare system, and how they can be scalable and sustainable.

Digital health innovations have undergone an unparalleled acceleration. Which solutions are impacting the most in the Asia Pacific region?

APAC is a very heterogeneous region, with different health systems, and various economic and political backgrounds. Despite the great heterogeneity, most of the APAC countries have seen unprecedent digital health acceleration in the past year. They rapidly introduced new technologies or increased the adopted of existing ones. A large number of technologies have allowed better and faster COVID-19 management: government chatbots dedicated to COVID-19, situation report dashboards with statistics and figures, official whatsapp accounts to inform citizens with timely and trusted updates, digital check in systems for contact tracing, telemedicine solutions to keep patients outside of the hospital, etc.
Among these solutions, some are expected to stay post-COVID-19. Telemedicine and remote care, for instance, are highly impacting the whole healthcare ecosystem. Companies are developing new solutions that patients and HCPs are increasingly using, governments are implementing new policies to ease access, and innovative partnerships are being formed among stakeholders. During covid, thousands of healthcare professionals have been trained to conduct telehealth visits with patients. Telemedicine platforms have also allowed patients in hospitals to communicate with their families. Now that both HCPs and patients have been forced to experiment the use of telemedicine, there are enough reasons to think they will keep this habit in the future.

Please tell us about APACMED, its mission and future initiatives such as ApacMed Digital Health Symposium 2021. What about the strategic topics addressed and the ecosystem involved?

Founded in 2014, the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) represents manufacturers and suppliers of medical equipment, devices and in-vitro diagnostics, industry associations and other key stakeholders associated with the medical technology industry in Asia Pacific.
APACMed strives to improve access to high quality healthcare for patients, by working in close collaboration with regulators, policymakers, healthcare providers, payers and patients to develop policies and put forward recommendations that ensure optimal care pathways for patients, from diagnosis to treatment. The association supports innovative new technologies and start-ups that improve the quality of care and healthcare outcomes. It also drives common approaches aligned with international best practices promoting speed to access via common regulatory standards; security and efficiency to adopt new digital technologies; and ethical interactions with healthcare professionals through the adherence of the Code of Conduct.

Increasingly these discussions have taken shape around Digital Health, especially given the explosion of the topic during the COVID-19 pandemic. An official committee was formed in early 2020 to work on issues such as regulatory frameworks, cybersecurity, interoperability and reimbursement. Building on this momentum and to facilitate the acceleration of digital health, APACMed is organizing the inaugural edition of their Digital Health Symposium on May 4th. It aims to bring together international and regional leaders to share learnings around use cases that have succeeded and discuss how Asia can accelerate the implementation of digital health solutions. The Symposium is conceived as a multi-step dialogue.
In May 2021, speakers will share valuable insights on reimbursement models and challenges to successful remote care management implementations to deliver better patient outcomes. In July, policymakers from the region will discuss priorities and challenges in a closed-door round table. The insights from these first two sessions will be shared during the annual APACMed MedTech Forum in September. More sessions will be held in 2022.